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40 hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners hospitalized

May 28, 2014 5:18 A.M. (Updated: May 29, 2014 12:01 A.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Forty Palestinian prisoners who have been refusing food for over a month in protest against their imprisonment without charge or trial were hospitalized on Wednesday, Israel's Prisons Services said.

The news comes as hundreds launched a one-day solidarity hunger strike in two Israeli prisons as prisoner rights' advocates claim dozens of strike leaders have been moved to solitary confinement while other strikers are being moved around, isolated, and "punished" through other tactics meant to "confuse and exhaust" them.

Palestinian officials warned on Wednesday that the lives of many of the 40 strikers in hospital were in danger, and urged international pressure to find a solution.

Palestinian prisoner minister Issa Qaraqe said some of the strikers were in a "very grave" condition.

Speaking to AFP, he said Palestinian officials were in touch with the Israeli side "to avoid any complications that could lead to prisoner deaths."

Qaraqe gave Voice of Palestine radio a graphic account of the prisoners' condition.

"Most are vomiting blood and fainting. They can't walk, they're in terrible pain," he said.

"We are afraid some will die if the situation continues and Israel keeps using the same measures against them.

"In the last two days there has been the daily transfer of prisoners from one prison to another, one cell to another, exhausting them and making their situation worse."

"It's clear that prison authorities are trying to break the strike in any way possible, even if prisoners die," Qaraqe charged, calling for the UN Security Council to "move against Israel's intransigence."

Israel's Prisons Services spokeswoman Sivan Weizman told AFP on Wednesday that the condition of the 40 prisoners was "reasonable" and that they had been taken to hospital at different stages.

They were being treated at nine different hospitals.

Weizman said other inmates had joined the strike since it started, and there are now 240 refusing food. She said the number transferred to hospital was expected to rise.

About 5,000 Palestinians are currently being held in Israeli prisons, nearly 200 of them under administrative detention orders, which allow suspects to be jailed without trial for extended periods of time. Such orders can be renewed indefinitely by a military court.

15-20 more prisoners plan to join strike 'every day'

On Wednesday, all Palestinian prisoners in both Shita and Gilboa jails declared a one-day hunger strike in solidarity with the prisoners who have been on hunger strike.

The numbers include 120 prisoners in Shita and 360 prisoners in Gilboa.

Also on Wednesday, lawyers from the ministry of prisoners declared during their visits with some of the prisoners on hunger strike that the Israeli Prisons Services are moving prisoners between jails and into solitary confinement in order to "confuse and exhaust" them in an attempt to break their strike and isolate them from one another.

Karim Ajwa, an advocate in the ministry of prisoners, said that prisons services had placed a number of the hunger strike leaders in solitary confinement, including Hasan Salameh in Kishon, Abbas al-Sayyid in Ramonim, Yassir Badrsawi in Ohalei Kedar, and Muayad Sharab in Ashkelon.

He added that 50 prisoners from Nafha were moved to collective confinement in Eshel prison, while 17 prisoners who ended their solitary confinement in 2012 had been informed by prisons services that they would be moved to solidarity confinement again.

Mutaz Shqirat, a prisoners' advocate at the Prisoners' Ministry, said that 15-20 prisoners being held in Ramon, Nafha, Ashkelon (Shikma), and Negev (Ktziot) prisons across southern Israel plan to join the strike each day.

120 prisoners will join the strike on Thursday from Nafha prison, in addition to 15 prisoners from Ashkelon, and 500 from all Israeli prisons on Sunday, he said.

Shqirat added that a number of ill prisoners joined the strike from the Negev (Ktziot) prison.

Shqirat said that 18 prisoners had also been moved from the prison in the Negev to Suruka Israeli hospital and that three were moved from Ashkelon prison to Barzalai hospital, Sufian Wahadin, Bahaa Yaish and Yassin Abu Snineh.

Nasser Abu Hmeid, a prisoner in Ashkelon, said that the prisons services are receiving special trainings in preparation for the prisoners' reactions if one of the prisoners on hunger strike dies.

Prisoner Azzam Shweiki said that ill administrative detainees had stopped taking their medications and food in solidarity with the prisoners on hunger strike.

Prisoner Adnan Abu Tabbana, meanwhile, called for President Mahmoud Abbas to intervene to save the lives of those prisoners that are at risk.

AFP contributed to this report.
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